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TO SEPT 16

Young Parisian Jacques Tatischeff was passionate about rugby, boxing, and tennis, and pantomiming the actions of athletes—under a shortened surname—made him a star of the music hall and then of short films. His career was interrupted by World War II, but after the war, he began again, this time actually directing the virtually dialogue-free films in which he played such Buster Keaton-like characters as an earnest postman and an unlucky vacationer. The former was the focus of L’Ecole des Facteurs, a 1947 short that was so successful that Tati soon expanded it into a feature, Jour de Fête (both at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, and at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8). The vacationer was introduced in 1953’s M. Hulot’s Holiday (at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8) and returned in 1958’s Mon Oncle (pictured, at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9), both international hits. Tati came to hate Hulot, downplaying the character in 1968’s expensive, elaborate, and alienating Playtime (at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15), whose most complex scene Jonathan Rosenbaum calls “conceivably the most richly orchestrated piece of mise en scène in the history of cinema.” The film, which abandoned cozy traditional France for Paris at its most modern, was a flop, forcing Tati into bankruptcy. Today, Playtime is widely considered a masterpiece, but Tati never made another movie like it; his final films, Traffic and Parade (both shown at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16), are on a much smaller scale. The Tati festival runs to Sunday, Sept. 16, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Ave. NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)